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  Handing on
our Heritage

Protection (conservation + enhancement) of habitats, species and landscapes

 

Code of Practice Pointers

 

– Transport routes should seek to avoid legally protected areas and species including under the European Union’s Habitats Directive and Birds Directive, and those protected by international agreements including the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Bern, Ramsar and World Heritage Conventions.

– Throughout the planning, design and implementation of transport schemes there is a need to promote an awareness and implement legislation relating to protected landscapes, habitats and species.

– Consideration of the wider countryside should include developing opportunities for enhancement of landscapes and habitats, and the establishment of links with the Pan-European Ecological Network.

 

Habitats, species and landscapes receive varying degrees of protection at a European and local level. Protected sites and species may be adversely affected by transport schemes and therefore are of particular relevance during the planning and construction phases.

 

The alignment of a proposed transport route is a crucial consideration in the assessment of the magnitude and significance of the effects particularly in environmentally sensitive locations. In these areas such routes should be screened for the need for an EIA.

 

The Habitats Directive and the Birds Directive

 

Within the European Union, the Habitats Directive (92/43/ECC) and the Birds Directive (79/409/EEC) establish a network of protected areas (Special Protection Areas (SPAs) and Special Areas of Conservation (SACs)) together forming the Natura 2000 series. This series aims to maintain and restore those listed habitats and species at a favourable conservation status.

 

Under the Habitats Directive appropriate action must be taken by Member States to avoid the significant deterioration of, or disturbance to the designated habitats and species:

 

"Member States shall take appropriate steps to avoid, in special areas of conservation, the deterioration of natural habitats and the habitats of species as well as disturbance of the species for which the areas have been designated, in so far as such disturbance could be significant in relation to the objectives of this Directive."

(Article 6 (2) 92/43/ECC April 2000).

 

Member states are encouraged to establish corridors and other landscape features between the protected areas. This could include land associated with transport schemes.

 

"Member States shall endeavour, where they consider it necessary, in their land-use planning and development policies and, in particular, with a view to improving the ecological coherence of the Natura 2000 network, to encourage the management of features of the landscape which are of major importance for wild fauna and flora. Such features are those which, by virtue of their linear and continuous structure."

Article 10 92/43/ECC.

 

To preserve listed habitats from developments likely to alter their ecological balance, Article 6 (3) and (4) of the Habitats Directive provides for an appropriate assessment:

"any plan or project not directly connected with or necessary to the management of the site but likely to have a significant effect thereon, either individually or in combination with other plans or projects..."

 

This requirement is irrespective of the EIA Directive and is much more stringent. If the assessment predicts a negative effect the development may go ahead only if there are no alternatives, or if there are imperative reasons of overriding public interest, including those of an economic or social nature. In such cases the state concerned must still reduce the impact of the project and adopt compensatory measures.

 

In addition to sites, the Habitats Directive protects certain priority species listed in Annex IVa. The list is subject to review. Listed animal species living in the wild must be protected from deliberate capture or killing, disturbance, destruction or taking of eggs and the deterioration or destruction of breeding sites or resting places (Article 12 and 13 of 92/43/EEC). Listed plants growing in the wild must be protected from deliberate picking, collecting, cutting or uprooting or selling or exchanging. These conditions may be waived to enable a development to proceed if there is no satisfactory alternative and the development will not be detrimental to the maintenance of the listed population at a favourable conservation status in their natural range. They may be waived also if the development is required:

 

"for imperative reasons of overriding public interest, including those of a social or economic nature and beneficial consequences of primary importance for the environment".

 

The application of Articles 12 and 13 in this section of the Directive is strict, often with significant effects for pending development, for example the presence of a protected species can stop construction works with consequential delay to the programme and with associated additional costs to the developer. A survey immediately prior to tendering or construction should help alleviate such consequences and is especially important when there has been a significant time lapse between the completion of the EIA and the start of construction works. In this intervening period, which for transport schemes can sometimes amount to around ten years, significant changes can occur in the landscape particularly as a response to other development pressures. For similar external reasons the protected status of species can change.  

 
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